I have taken a number of cruises in the past (Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and now Carnival.)
We were talked into upgrading to the "Owner's Suite" which cost $700/day. Since this was a special occasion we decided to take the upgrade. Big mistake!
Using a scale of 1 = terrible to 10 = unbelievably good I would rate the different lines thus.
I have been a chef for many years and the food service is my area of expertise to a large degree.
The Norwegian cruise was by far the best food of any of the ships as far as the standard dining experience goes [rating = 10].
All others except Carnival have been a close second in this category [rating = 8].
Carnival rates only a 3 here. All diners were served with lukewarm entrees and sides which were barely edible due to undercooking and arriving at the table at room temperature. The one time I ordered a Caesar salad, being tired of room temperature soup, the lettuce was warm and wilted from sitting at room temperature in the kitchen with the dressing on it; the effect was like eating a leftover from the day before. It had some anchovy paste in the dressing but there was no parmesan cheese on it. The only dish I had that was even close to being passable by the health board (requirement is that all hot food be at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit) was the spaghetti on Wednesday night (though it was not hot [approx. 115 degrees] it was as close to being the proper temperature as we had onboard.) Twice the ice cream we ordered for desert was half melted by the time it got to us. The outdoor cafeteria was no better except for the Mongolian BBQ which was served HOT from the wok. I also tried a small bowl of chili (it was air temperature) and some French fries (which were like chewing leather from sitting out so long also at air temp.)
For entertainment onboard, Disney scores an easy 10 while Princess and Royal Caribbean score 7. Norwegian only scored a 6 and Carnival gets a 4. I must say that considering the excellent caliber of the dancers in the show it is sad that they only performed 2 out of the 4 days. I do not consider participating in playing games on stage to be entertainment and I couldn’t even get the football game on Monday night on the TV.
We have never stayed in any upgraded cabin accommodations before but were always very pleased with our vacation aboard the various ships. The staterooms on all the cruise lines other than Carnival were clean and comfortable, restful and QUIET!
Not once did we get a good night’s sleep. The first night after driving all the way from Phoenix to Long Beach we were awakened at 5:00 in the morning to the sound of what can best be described as a herd of elephants galloping on the ceiling of our cabin. I went to guest services the next morning to complain of the noise and was first asked if I had not been informed of this possibility when I was sold the upgrade. I certainly had not been. They were "sorry” for the noise but very mater-of-factly informed me that there was nothing they could do about this because they could not tell the other guests that they could not run on the track that formed the ceiling of our room. They did add that the track was not supposed to be used before 6:00 A.M. I asked if they would not post a sign restricting access between 10:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M. This they flatly refused to do but added that they would tell the person in-charge of the facility to try to restrict use before 6:00 A.M. I left very frustrated that I was paying $700/day for a room that I could not get a night’s rest in.
In all fairness I must admit the running did not start at 5:00 the next morning. It started at 1:30 A.M. and continued throughout the day as well as every day thereafter.
We had high expectations of service being in the owner’s suite but were disappointed when our room was not made up on the last 2 days of the cruise until after dinner. This made it difficult to relax when we returned to the room during the day. Plus, the noise level outside on the Lido deck was tremendous on the number of occasions when there was cheerleading sessions going on. Also, the atrium elevators were out of service for 2 days as well as one of the regular elevators for 1 day, which made it very inconvenient moving about to and from deck 12 since 3 of the 4 elevators available to us, weren’t.
Now to the embarkation:
You told me to make sure that I told the staff that we were in the owner’s suite when we checked in and we would be met and personally escorted to the stateroom. I informed them at the check-in station of this twice. They had us stand outside the check-in station telling us that we would be met there and taken aboard. No one ever arrived to escort us. I eventually went back into the check-in station and told the woman who had us stand outside that no one showed up to escort us. She denied ever saying that someone would escort us and said they have already started priority boarding and we should hurry over to the gate. I was starting to get very hot under the collar as we went to the gate and the person at the gate told us to go to the elevators straight ahead. I explained that we were supposed to be met and escorted in by someone from the ship’s company. She just pointed and said go to the elevators. We proceeded in the direction she had indicated and were immediately accosted by a woman demanding to see our room key cards. I asked her if she was to escort us to our room. She replied abruptly, "Just show me your key card.” I asked again if someone was here to escort us in and she very abruptly replied, "Just go to the elevators.” We went.
After we got onboard we stopped the first person we saw in a Carnival red blazer and asked where our cabin was. He asked what our cabin number was and I said I did not know, only that it was the owner’s cabin. He gave me a very quizzical look and asked what deck it was on. I said, "I don’t know. Someone was supposed to meet us at the check-in and escort us to it.” My wife said she thought she saw somewhere that it was located on deck 12. He pointed to the atrium elevators and said take this elevator to deck 12 which he called the Sports deck. We went up to deck 12 and met 4 young boys and girls in Carnival uniform whom I asked where the owner’s suite was. They had never heard of it but asked if we knew the room number. I said I did not but repeated that it was the owner’s suite. One of the girls said that the suites were up here and asked which side it was on. I replied Port side. She used her shoulder to point to the Port side and said, "It’s around there,” and went back to talking with her friends. We walked in the direction indicated since none of them volunteered to show us the way and discovered a door hidden in a dark recess that opened when our key was applied.
And to add insult to injury, the debarkation...
This was the first time we had ever looked forward to leaving a cruise ship. I watched the TV instructions 5 times to make sure I was not missing anything. I read the letter that was delivered to our room 3 times (see attachment.) As you will notice the second paragraph tells us that we are indeed entitled to priority departure. We chose the Self-Assist option in paragraph 3 and the letter specifies that we are to meet in the Paris Lounge on deck 8 at 7:00 A.M. In paragraph 4 we are informed that a Carnival team member would escort us from the lounge to the gangway. I took this as tongue-in-cheek and decided that if someone was not there to meet us promptly at 7 that we would go down to the gangway on our own at 7:05. Surprise, someone did show up. We were taken out to the stairs and the woman who escorted us checked our room key and said that we were not eligible for priority debarkation because our cards were not properly marked. At this point I had had enough. I got very gruff with this young woman and informed her that we had been left to our own devices on embarkation and that I thought that since we were paying $700/day for this trip we were entitled to priority debarkation since they had not delivered on any of the promises made so far (I believe I used different phraseology but made my point in short order.) She immediately backed down and had us continue to the gangway.
This was the worst experience I have ever had on a vacation in my 66 years. I am not happy and want a refund our fares forthwith.